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Heart Balm Actions: Introduction

Reviewed 1/23/2019


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Introduction

A heart balm (or heartbalm) action refers to several different lawsuits relating to courtship or marriage.  These common law suits (meaning they were developed by judges rather than legislatures) were: alienation of affections, breach of promise to marry, seduction, and criminal conversation. These suits were prevalent many years ago, but now most states, including New Hampshire, have done away with them either by enacting "heart balm statutes" or through judicial decisions. States made this change because legislators, guided by public policy and prevailing sentiment, no longer saw judicial involvement and money damages as being appropriate for what is perceived as only an ordinary broken heart.  Although heart balm actions no longer exist in New Hampshire, we are occasionally asked about them at the law library. 

In New Hampshire both the legislature and the courts eliminated the heart balm causes of action. In 1941 the legislature abolished suits for breach of contract to marry and in 1981 eliminated damages in suits for alienation of affections. In 1984, the New Hampshire case of Feldman v. Feldman abolished the common law action of criminal conversation, noting that no-fault divorce laws make the action of criminal conversation unnecessary.  The previous ability to sue for seduction was never robust in New Hampshire and seems to no longer be viable; there are only two New Hampshire cases on this topic, decided in 1846 and 1879.

Disclaimer

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive.  It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.